Black Friday? Try Black November.
The traditional day after Thanksgiving start of the holiday shopping season has now morphed into a monthlong surge of sales and other promotions. Many of those deals kick off this weekend, and promotions will continue to be rolled out through Cyber Monday on Dec. 1 and deep into the holiday season.
Retailers have been pushing up the Black Friday deals for several years. What’s different this time is that more and more traditional and online stores are jump-starting the holiday business.
Nebraska Furniture Mart, for example, offered Black Friday discounts on appliances starting Nov. 6. Amazon and Wal-Mart rolled out promotions Friday. Dollar General is starting its Black Friday discounts Sunday.
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And on Wednesday, the Northland’s Zona Rosa shopping center will officially kick off its season with “Orange Wednesday is the new Black Friday” with promotions and giveaways from 6 to 10 p.m.
Why the rush?
Holiday sales account for as much as 30 percent of a store’s annual take. But some surveys are projecting that shoppers will not spend that much more than they did in 2013, although lower gasoline prices could change the outlook.
So retailers who want to get their share — or more — of that limited holiday spending spree have to stand out from their competitors by being first to offer good deals.
“The early bird catches the worm. They need to protect their market share and try to drive traffic in,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the NPD Group.
Not all retailers are jumping the gun. Some department stores, including Dillard’s and Kansas City-based Halls, are sticking with traditional Black Friday strategies. And even some of the retailers promoting heavily this weekend are keeping some of their top deals on the shelf until Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday.
In sizing up the shopping season, Cohen said consumers “are not finding anything that will likely jump out at them as ‘must haves’ for this holiday season. In terms of general trends for holiday 2014, there’s not a lot of innovation in fashion, and the absence of it means it’s going to be a price game again.”
Many retailers started advertising their pre-Black Friday deals in early November.
Nebraska Furniture Mart is one of the early birds. Its holiday specials started more than two weeks ago.
This weekend, it is having Black Friday-like promotions — opening an hour earlier Saturday with storewide discounts and doorbusters through the weekend. On Wednesday, the Kansas City, Kan., store will open at 8 a.m. for “Black Wednesday” with more doorbusters.
But the home furnishings retailer is saving its “giant” deals for Black Friday.
“We’ve held true to Black Friday being Black Friday,” said Rebecca Ritterbush, spokeswoman for the Omaha-based company. “You get people out shopping that never go out shopping at 6 a.m. It’s not just a sales promotion, it’s an event.”
Online retailer Amazon started its Black Friday sales this Friday and planned to have new discounts as often as every 10 minutes on a variety of items including electronics, DVDs, magazine subscriptions, toys, clothing, shoes and jewelry. Amazon intends to keep this up for eight straight days.
In addition, Amazon will have three special deals starting at midnight on Thanksgiving as well as three more on Black Friday. Amazon Prime members get limited-time “Lightning Deals” 30 minutes before other customers, while supplies last.
Among the other big area retailers, Kohl’s will start its deals Monday, earlier than ever. It will follow with “price meltdowns” on Thursday and more than 500 deals on Friday.
Wal-Mart gave its customers a taste of Black Friday discounts with an event Friday that included deals through Thanksgiving on a 40-inch LED HDTV, KitchenAid stand mixers and more. It plans more deals after that.
“We want to meet our customers where they are and when they are,” said Debbie Serr, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart. “We do want customers to know we have the best deals. When retailers compete, the customer always wins.”
Dollar General will have eight days of savings starting Sunday. The stores also will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Black Friday for more specials.
Toys R Us sent out its 82-page “Great Big Christmas Book” in early November, as it does annually, with special discounts on must-have toys of the season through Saturday.
But this year, it also is offering its nearly 19 million Rewards R Us customers Black Friday discounts on 100 items in stores and online starting Sunday and running through Wednesday. Then other Toys R Us customers can start taking advantage of those deals online starting at 9 p.m. Wednesday through Nov. 29. The stores open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, as they did in 2013.
Macy’s customers were able to preview Black Friday deals online as early as Thursday, and the stores will start offering the deals at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Other retailers are also offering previews of their promotions online.
Dillard’s plans to launch its Black Friday specials at 8 a.m. Friday.
By the numbers
The National Retail Federation expects sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) to increase a healthy 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, higher than 2013’s actual 3.1 percent increase during that same period. Still, it concedes there is some uneasiness and anxiety among consumers when it comes to their purchase decisions.
“The lagging economic recovery, though improving, is still top of mind for many Americans,” Matthew Shay, the federation’s president and CEO said in a statement. “Recognizing the need to keep household budgets in line, we expect shoppers will be extremely price sensitive as they have been for quite some time. Retailers will respond by differentiating themselves and touting price, value and exclusivity.”
But Cohen of the NPD Group cautions that the earlier promotions will not translate into more overall sales. Instead those sales will just occur over a longer shopping season.
A new Nielsen survey showed slightly more men than women planned to shop at stores next Friday, and 40 percent of those surveyed said they will shop online. For about a quarter of the 1,150 consumers surveyed, this year will be their first Black Friday experience.
Nielsen also said slightly more consumers will shop on Cyber Monday after Thanksgiving than on Black Friday, with more women than men shopping online that day.
But if you miss out on Black November deals, expect to see even earlier promotions in 2015.
“Christmas in August is not that far-fetched,” said Cohen.
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Start your spending
Retailers and consumers are gearing up for the biggest shopping weekend of the holiday season. This year, 140 million Americans are likely to shop in stores or online during Thanksgiving weekend. Nearly eight in 10 millennials ages 18 to 24 plan to shop over the weekend, the highest of any age group.
Source: National Retail Federation
Getting the deals
Here are a few tips for deal hunting during the Thanksgiving weekend:
▪ Plan ahead: Scope the stores and websites ahead of time. Scan the Black Friday ads to see which deals are the best.
▪ Beat the crowds: Increasingly, a number of stores are offering the same deals online on Thanksgiving Day that will be available in their stores hours later.
▪ Use social media: Sign up for your favorite stores’ Twitter feeds. Shoppers should also “like” the official Facebook pages of their favorite stores.
▪ Bring the circulars with you: Having the physical ad while you shop in the stores will ensure you get the advertised price, experts said.
The Associated Press